Gold Coast — It rained early medals for SA at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday‚ with wrestling‚ mountain biking and lawn bowls contributing four gongs.
Wrestler Johannes Botha was the first on the map as he qualified for the final against India’s Kumar Sushil‚ scheduled for later on Thursday.
And Colleen Piketh and Nicolene Neal stole through to the women’s lawns gold medal match on Friday after coming back from the dead against England in the quarterfinal and to a lesser extent against Scotland in the semifinal.
Mountain biker Alan Hatherly‚ who broke his arm in a race in February‚ took bronze to spoil what would otherwise have been an all-New Zealand party on the podium.
"To come back to a race of this level and medal is huge‚" said the 22-year-old. "I was racing against the best in the world. Super tough course‚ happy to have been here two weeks back to adjust to the humidity here."
In bowls, the disabled men’s triple took bronze after beating England 16-13. The two sides had played to a 13-13 tie in their round-robin tie earlier in the tournament‚ and when it was 11-11 with five ends to go on Thursday‚ the South Africans stepped up to the occasion.
A three-pointer on the 12th end to move the margin to 15-11 was critical‚ and even then‚ there were anxious moments on the final delivery when the English skip missed an opportunity to clinch the game‚ but was unable to trail the jack.
The women’s pair were 0-4 and 3-7 down against Scotland in the semifinal‚ but a magnificent drive by Piketh‚ who won the pairs gold at Glasgow 2014‚ saw the South Africans take five on the 13th end to move 14-9 up‚ and they never looked back after that.
But it was in the quarterfinal against England earlier in the day that the South African duo produced their miracle fight-back from 5-11 down with five ends to go and then 6-11 with four remaining. They picked up eight points in three ends to go into the last end 14-11 up. They won 14-12.
"The green was so much quicker this morning‚" said Piketh‚ also the bronze medallist in the singles.
"The fastest it’s been this whole tournament‚" added Neal.
"Her drives were brilliant‚" Neal said of the skip. "And that’s what won the game."
Even on the last end Piketh cut the English down from four — which would have given them victory — to just one.
Piketh and Neal take on Malaysia on Friday.